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NFL Draft loaded with talent at cornerback

Steelers/NFL Videos

Scouting the cornerbacks

1. Darqueze Dennard

Michigan State, 5-101⁄2, 199

Thorpe Award winner, Big Ten DB of the year and consensus All-American in Spartans' ‘No Fly Zone' secondary. Excellent in press coverage and has 4.42 speed. Produced throughout three-year starting career. Visited Steelers.

2. Justin Gilbert

Oklahoma State, 5-11, 194

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said “he's tall, he's long, and he runs like crazy.” Seven INTs in ‘13; also had Big 12-record six kickoff return TDs. Eight career return TDs. Extremely talented and plays with confidence.

3. Bradley Roby

Ohio State, 5-11, 194

Visited Steelers. 40 time: 4.35. Physical, throws his body around. Eight career INTs. Overcame miserable first game of ‘13 after suspension. Past shoulder problems.

4. Kyle Fuller

Virginia Tech, 5-111⁄2, 190

Strong combine (4.43 in 40) set aside concerns over sports hernia surgery. Four-year starter. Three-time all-ACC pick. Played LB, S and ILB and OLB. Six career INTs.

5. Jason Verrett

TCU, 5-91⁄2, 189

Co-Big 12 defensive player of year. Height and offseason shoulder operation are worries. Broke up 36 passes in the past two seasons and has nine career INTs. Might be best suited to covering slot receivers.

6. Walt Aikens

Liberty, 6-01⁄2, 203

Gifted and underrated; made five starts at Illinois as non-redshirt freshman before being kicked off team after a theft incident. Great competitor who plays with confidence. Unpolished but good athlete; also played basketball and ran track.

7. Terrance Mitchell

Oregon, 5-11, 192

Started all but two of 40 college games; five INTs in ‘13. Slender and not as physical as top CBs are. Ran an unimpressive 4.61 in 40; could have trouble in man-to-man coverage.

8. Rashaad Reynolds

Oregon State, 5-91⁄2, 189

Started 38 consecutive games, making 10 INTs (6 in ‘13). Not a skilled run defender or tackler (he's a former high school QB). 40 time: 4.51. Makes up for smallish size with quickness.

9. Bashaud Breeland

Clemson, 5-11, 197

Was ejected versus Florida State for helmet-to-helmet hit on Heisman winner Jameis Winston. Prone to hesitation at times. Played little press coverage, but has good cover skills and plays with an attitude.

10. Keith McGill

Utah, 6-3, 211

Very raw; didn't start in D-I until ‘13, six years after last HS season. Former junior college player slowed by bad shoulder injury in ‘11 and ‘12. Excellent size and athletic ability (39-inch vertical jump) suitable to playing press coverage but will be 25 this season.

Best fit for Steelers

“He's a Steeler,” ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said of Dennard. “Rough, tough, aggressive football player, plays with a chip on his shoulder, very good in coverage, plays faster than he timed.” But will they take him?

One to watch

Shaquille Richardson Arizona, 6-0, 194

He's not showing up on any top-10 lists, but he has good size and speed (4.43 in 40), and he made 10 career INTs despite not being a polished defender. Will require patience and good coaching. Visited with Steelers.

Homegrown

No Darrelle Revis in this group. K'Waun Williams (six INTs in final two seasons) of Pitt wasn't invited to the combine; runs the 40 in the 4.53 range and projects as a post-draft signee.

Saturday, May 3, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

No position in the 2014 NFL Draft is more important to the Steelers than cornerback.

Ike Taylor is returning at age 34 for much less money. William Gay had to start ahead of Cortez Allen in 2013.

And as NFL offensive coordinators and QBs up the ante in the passing game each season, an opponent without two competent corners doesn't stand a chance.

This cornerbacks group is considered to be deep and talented but with no consensus No. 1. Darqueze Dennard is this guy's No. 1, Justin Gilbert is that guy's and the fast-rising Bradley Roby and Kyle Fuller might end up going ahead of Dennard or Gilbert.

If the Steelers go for a cornerback with the No. 15 pick — and that seems probable — they likely will get a good player. But picking the right player out of this crowded-at-the-top group could be as important to a defense as choosing the right quarterback out of the Johnny Manziel-Blake Bortles-Teddy Bridgewater mix is to an offense.

The Steelers, after all, once took future Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson in the first round, but another time, they took the highly disappointing Deon Figures.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

 

 

 
 


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